Scallop wars! French MEP warns of ‘dangerous’ backlash in Channel if Royal Navy deployed

Brexit: Expert warns of 'scallop wars' with France

Nicolas Bay, general secretary of the right-wing National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, was speaking in response to plans to task four naval vessels to patrol the English Channel to prevent illegal fishing after the end of the year – which in theory could mean all foreign vessels being barred if no agreement is reached. With less than two weeks before the end of the transition period, uncertainty over post-Brexit access to UK waters still unresolved, and remains a key sticking point for both sides.

This is a dangerous idea that no one wants to see implemented

Nicolas Bay

The so-called Scallop War of 2018, saw British and French fishing vessels clash in the English Channel, and the deployment of naval ships, including HMS Severn, would be aimed at preventing any repetition.

But Mr Bay suggested in doing so, relations between the two countries would be compromised.

He told Express.co.uk: “This is a dangerous idea that no one wants to see implemented.

“The United Kingdom and France are more than partners, they are allies, friends, benefiting from a relationship unique in the world, forged first by intense rivalry and then by common struggles, even to the hell of the trenches of the Great War.”

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The sovereignty of both nations needed to be respected, Mr Bay stressed.

He added: “It will be respected without the need to be at loggerheads.

“It is normal for discussions to be tense since everyone is looking out for his or her best interests.

“But I do not have any taste for this kind of provocation which seriously damages our relationship.”

Asked how French fishermen would react if the EU ended up striking a deal which damaged their best interests, Mr Bay said: “It is perfectly natural that the United Kingdom wants to ensure control over its waters.

“But control does not imply prohibiting any activity other than national! The economic interests of French and especially Norman fishermen, whom I know well from being elected from this region, are extremely important.

“Thirty percent of all French fishing is carried out in British waters, as is about 90 percent of the total volume of fishermen from Normandy or the Hauts-de-France.

“For your part, you export 70 percent of your fishing to the EU.

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“Your interests in reaching an agreement on the subject are just as crucial as ours.”

Referencing the tensions of two years ago, he added: “As regards this famous scallop war, I would like to recall that it stems from the fact that you had the right to fish for scallops in our waters all year round whereas the fishing period is limited for French professionals.

“There are possible solutions – for example a reduction in the stocks fished by Europeans in British waters, or a reversal of part of the profits, in exchange for a limited period of scallop fishing in French waters.

“Looking from the outside, the scallop war may seem preposterous but it was a real wake-up call from our fishermen.

“I would like to remind you that there was significant damage only on one side, when English vessels deliberately rammed French vessels.

“No one wants to go through that again.”

Speaking at the weekend, Daniel Kawczynski, Tory MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said it was necessary to deploy ships from January 1 onwards.

He told Express.co.uk: “With the scallops wars French fishermen were trying to use a certain amount of muscle so we have to really put down a marker here.”

However, Tobias Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East, was critical of the plan.

Mr Ellwood, chairman of Parliament’s defence committee, called the plan “Irresponsible”

He tweeted: “Global threats increasing, Navy overstretched. Here we are squaring up to a NATO ally as beneath the same sea increased Russian sub/ drone activity goes unchecked.

“Our friends (US) watch in dismay. Our foes (China/Russia) in joy. Let’s raise our game & get a deal.”

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